With the holiday season finally upon us, Shudder’s latest thriller drama, “The Apology,” is now here. With the runtime being just over 90 minutes, it makes for a quick watch that you can watch on a cold evening. The protagonist of the film, Darlene, is played by Anna Gunn. The actress has proven before with her Emmy-winning performance from “Breaking Bad” how she’s immensely capable of showing rage on camera with just the right amount of restraint. Here, she plays a recovering alcoholic preparing to host Christmas celebrations for her close ones after a very long time. However, she soon finds an unexpected knock on the door, which turns her night upside down. The suspense and moral quandary that unfolds during the rest of the runtime is what helps the film drive most of its mileage from its claustrophobic setting. Let’s break down the film’s gut-wrenching ending.
The Apology Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
Darlene Hagen, a recovering alcoholic, seems nervous about the family Christmas celebrations that are underway. In an attempt to get things back to normal, she has decided to host dinner after a very long time. But what happened to her? We get a sense that she was used to such parties at one point in life but now has been long out of practice in fears that she would not be able to do adequate enough. Darlene admits to her best friend and neighbor, Gretchen, how she seems to have lost her touch and skills over everything. She finds good company in the only person she seems to have kept around, and Gretchen even insists Darlene return back to everyday life. Soon, we learn more details about Darlene when she receives the link to a recent video interview that she gave about her past life.
Twenty years back, Darlene’s sixteen-year-old daughter named Sally had gone missing. The young one had never been found since then, and despite all of Darlene’s and her family’s collective efforts, no information about Sally could ever be found. Darlene’s own husband had given up, too, but she still kept some hope. Even after a long and uncertain period of two decades, Darlene was still giving out interviews and running a website portal, hoping to find some definite information about Sally from someone. We see the glimmer of hope die when she listens to an interviewer talk about the disappearance of Sally while describing it as the event’s ‘twentieth year anniversary’, as if it were something to celebrate about. The movie, thus, sets up its bleak and claustrophobic tone for the rest of the runtime.
Gradually, as it gets late and a terrible snowstorm rages outside, Gretchen leaves while Darlene is once again left all alone. As we had learned, Darlene used to suffer from alcoholism, but she has stayed clean ever since almost nineteen years. But tonight, she pours down a glass of vodka, and right before sipping it off, she hears a knock on the front door and the ringing of the doorbell. Naturally astonished with who it might be so late in the evening, Darlene steps to the door and finds that it’s her long-estranged ex-brother-in-law, Jack. A more profound sense of unsettling dread then permeates the room, where the two stand and make small talk about the thunder and snow outside. Darlene notices how rare it is and how it makes for the most dangerous yet beautiful sight. What happens now?
What revelations does Jack have for Darlene?
Darlene’s sister, Julie, had once been married to Jack, and the two even had children. That’s until Jack eventually left his family as well as his hometown one day, never to return. This, too, happened nineteen years ago, and now coming back after all these years later, he claims that he has a lot to confess to Darlene. Hence, it becomes pretty clear from this very moment that Jack has some revelations in store to shake Darlene. Gradually, we also learn deeper context about some other relations and unseen character dynamics; the film never cuts to a different time or space, and in doing so, helps build upon its contained atmosphere.
Even though Jack was married to Darlene’s sister, it was actually Darlene he secretly had feelings for. It’s left unclear whether the two had fallen for each other before his marriage. Thus, we get a sense that Jack is here with hopes for a better future with Darlene, but the latter dismisses any such doubt. Darlene admits that she used to be a different woman back then. Her sister, Jack’s wife, obviously had no idea about any of this, as Darlene never felt the need to jeopardize her family’s life was unfair to them. Throughout the movie, the general feeling that is conveyed is how Jack seems to have lived with his romantic feelings for Darlene. In contrast, the latter has truly moved on from her past days and has instead lived with the shadow of grief and uncertainty looming over her daughter’s unannounced loss. However, there also seems to be another reason for Jack showing up, as suggested earlier. He initially says that he had been driving to his old family’s home in order to surprise them and spend Christmas together with his children once again – something which he had missed doing immensely for the last nineteen years. On his way there, his car broke down just some distance from Darlene’s house. After having heard that his old lover was going to host the family Christmas celebrations this time around, he thought it would be great to see her for a while. But later, Jack makes it clear that his arrival was indeed a well-planned event; he’s come to Darlene to make a few things clear and to apologize to her. In fact, he even suggests that he had something to do with young Sally’s disappearance, making our protagonist feel uneasy in her own space.
What happened to Sally?
One afternoon, Sally had been walking home from school when Jack met her on the road, offering to give her a ride. The teenager was apparently concerned about her mother’s alcoholism problem. Jack, thus, thought it would be a good idea to spend some time with her away from home. So he drove Sally to a nearby lake, and being her uncle as well as the father of her best friend and cousin sister, Jack felt a different urge. So much so that he felt Sally to be just like her mother, who, as we know, he desired so strongly. Jack ended up kissing the young girl. Naturally shocked and startled by this abrupt turn, Sally tried to leave when Jack forced himself on top of her. Jack held the girl against her will, rendering her resistant to futile in the process. He ended up strangling and killing her, leaving her body buried in the same spot where he had committed the unholy act. When the police investigation started, Jack stated that he was busy at work during the whole day and had checked out because his friend at work mentioned how he had bought Jack some lunch. The friend had actually mistaken the previous day for the day the rape and murder had actually happened. Still, the police or the family did not suspect Jack of his apparent relationship with Darlene.
After being saved like that, Jack then fled the town a year later, abandoning his old life. Thus, there indeed seems to be some psychopathic characteristics in Jack; the man recollects most of these rather disturbing memories and states them matter-of-factly, adding just enough menace to the performance. He seems to have grown obsessed with this screwed-up act of his. However, there also seems to be a cathartic quality to the performance, which slowly reveals itself by the end. Even for the entire year when he was present post-Sally’s sudden disappearance, he kept quiet about his act, pretending he had no clue about what had happened. He even continued to be romantically involved with his victim’s disturbed mother.
There was a strange obsession in him about it, as he claimed he couldn’t keep the reality away from Darlene. He even kept Sally’s French diary, which the little girl had with her at the time of the murder. Jack could have destroyed the crucial piece of evidence, but now he has returned to Darlene, claiming that his intention is to confess everything and, in doing so, beg for her forgiveness. Jack knows very well how Darlene (or perhaps any mother in that case) would be emotionally startled and moved by his confession. Yet he insists she listens to him explain everything. The man, thus, comes prepared to ensure that he meets his fate, reinforced in the story with the reveal of him carrying a small handgun along. He wants that the situation not go beyond his control, as he even brought a bunch of zip ties. He asks her not to make him use them on her and confesses that, especially after the recent interview (which we saw Darlene watch at the start of the movie), he couldn’t keep the guilt to himself. Darlene also showed a wide range of varied emotions after the reveal.
But she also fears that Jack is back to kill her, too, completing the cycle he had started earlier. She even makes a couple of attempts to run away but finds out that Jack has already locked the door using a shovel from the outside. She spills hot coffee onto Jack, locking him in another room. Gradually, there is a shift in her intentions as well as emotions, as she refuses to listen to the killer confess his crimes and instead takes charge of the whole situation herself.
The Apology (2022) Movie Ending, Explained:
At a point when Jack looks menacing enough to make a hard move on Darlene, she makes the best use of the electric failure in her house by using Sally’s old picture frame to attack the man and, thus, bring him under control. Now, she demands that he tell her everything in chronological order. At first, Darlene says that she has no desire to inflict revenge, but then reveals that she has indeed always had thoughts of getting the cruel man responsible for taking her daughter away by locking him up in her basement and torturing him to a breaking point.
She now gets Jack locked up in her basement, but instead of torturing, she asks him to narrate the whole incident. She knows all too well handing Jack over to the police would be the right thing for her to do, but she is also aware that Jack will not confess to anyone other than her because of obvious reasons and would, therefore, again escape from the actions of his crimes. Now, while coming to terms with the truth, Darlene sits in a moral dilemma about whether to give into the rage and shoot the man dead or let him go after learning the truth.
Because of the sounds of multiple gunshots, Gretchen, living next door, had come to check upon Darlene and found out the truth. She helps her best friend against Jack. It is, in fact, Gretchen who constantly tells Darlene not to kill the man. Darlene ties Jack strongly to the bed in a corner room as the two hear listening to the man’s confession. The man at first gets paranoid that his words will get recorded and used against him, but is convinced against it when Darlene shows him all the phones being switched off. Jack’s only demand now is that Darlene shoots him dead once he is done admitting to everything, and Darlene agrees to this. Jack then slowly confesses to everything about what had happened twenty years ago and explains in his own twisted way, justifying how and why he had done everything.
After he gets done explaining the tragic experience to Darlene, she naturally feels enraged by the whole thing. She holds up the gun she had brought with her but instead shoots at the walls behind and not at Jack. She now exclaims in a cathartic scene how her last promise to kill Jack had been a false one, as she does not owe the psychopath anything. The final revelation of the movie comes here when she admits that she had recorded the entire confession on Sally’s old tape recorder. She only used the last bullet left in the gun to get rid of any further complications.
This way, she indirectly saves Jack’s life, as now he would not be able to kill himself out of guilt. In a poetic closing scene, we find out how Darlene had recorded the confession over the same kind of tape that young teenage Sally – who was fond of singing and recording her voice – would use. But now, Darlene realizes that the only way to bring Jack to justice would be like this. As morning breaks, in the movie’s last scene, we hear police sirens approach the house. Jack would now have to live with his crimes, with his love for Darlene now looming over the same uncertainty with which she had lived for twenty years.